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Pets & Wildfire Smoke: 9 Vet-Approved Tips to Keep Your Cat Safe

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 10, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Wildfire smoke above a small town

Pets & Wildfire Smoke: 9 Vet-Approved Tips to Keep Your Cat Safe


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

Veterinarian, BVSc

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Wildfires are common across the US and typically occur from spring to fall, particularly in dry areas like parts of California. You may know how to handle a wildfire situation for yourself and your family, but what about your pets? They can be just as affected by smoke, and if you need to evacuate, they add a layer of complexity.

The key to getting through a wildfire is planning ahead. Don’t wait until the situation becomes an emergency. Here are some tips to ensure your cats are safe and you’re prepared for the worst-case scenario.

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The 9 Tips to Keep Your Cat Safe of Wildfire Smoke

1. Pack a Pet Emergency Kit

Image Credit: Aleksey Matrenin, Shutterstock

You should always have a pet emergency kit, not just for wildfires but for any emergency or natural disaster.

Always keep the following items in your emergency kit:
  • Pet carrier for each cat
  • Two-week supply of food and water
  • Medications and dosing instructions
  • Pet first-aid kit
  • Non-spill food and water bowls
  • Cat litter box and litter
  • Plastic bags for waste disposal
  • Paper towels
  • Disinfectants
  • Extra leashes and collars
  • Blankets
  • Toys and treats
  • Newspaper

2. Know Your Evacuation Options

Not all emergency shelters accept pets. Make a plan for where you can go and who will accept your pets well in advance. Consider getting a permanent form of identification like a microchip. If you have nearby neighbors, arrange for them to check on or transport your pets if you’re not home when disaster strikes.

3. Monitor Air Quality

Image Credit: Sharomka, Shutterstock

Even if you don’t need to evacuate, pay attention to the air quality alerts for your area. Smoke can lead to eye and respiratory infections in humans and animals, as well as more serious conditions. You can check for local alerts at AirNow. Make sure to follow the instructions, to stay inside or limit activity, for your pets too.

4. Keep Cats Indoors

Even if your cats are indoor/outdoor cats, keep them inside with the doors and windows closed when there’s smoke in the air. If your cats can’t have the run of the house safely, bring them into a bathroom, garage, or another safe room with adequate ventilation.

5. Monitor Your Cat’s Breathing

woman staying at home with pet cat consulting a doctor via video call using laptop
Image Credit: imtmphoto, Shutterstock

Pay attention to your cat’s breathing. If you notice signs like coughing or gagging, trouble breathing, noisy breathing, fatigue or weakness, reduced appetite or thirst, nasal discharge, red or watery eyes, or disorientation and stumbling, contact your vet.

6. Avoid Heavy Exercise

A wildfire is not the time to play with your cat outdoors or engage in rigorous activity. Make sure your cat is able to use a litter box, so they don’t need to go outside. Keep playtime indoors to lighter activity.

7. Create a Clean Room

close up of a fluffy cat sitting next to an air purifier
Image Credit: Anna-Hoychuk, Shutterstock

One of the biggest advantages of a wildfire is advanced preparation. If you have central air conditioning or a room unit, buy high-efficiency filters to capture the fine particles from smoke. You could consider making a clean room with a portable high-efficiency air cleaner as well.

8. Keep Indoor Air Clean

Avoid adding to indoor air pollution during a wildfire. Avoid frying or broiling food, burning scented candles, using a wood stove or wood-burning fireplace, or smoking cigarettes while there’s smoke in the air.

9. If You Must Leave Pets Behind, Don’t Confine Them

Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

In general, you should include your pets in your evacuation plan. However, if you absolutely must leave your pets behind, have a plan for a clean, preselected area with enough food and water. Don’t confine your cat to a crate or outside without access to food, water, and litter boxes. The moment it’s safe, return for your pets.

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Is Wildfire Smoke Dangerous for Cats?

Wildfire smoke can irritate your cat’s lungs just as much as your own. Animals with cardiovascular or respiratory disease are at a higher risk from smoke and should be monitored more closely when the air quality is poor, but all animals can be affected if the conditions are severe.

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Wildfires can get out of control quickly. Preparing in advance for yourself and your pets can increase their chances of surviving a wildfire, so take the time to get your pet emergency kit together, know your evacuation plan, and equip your home with clean air options.

Featured Image Credit: Blanscape, Shutterstock

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